MOUNT VERNON – Judge George E. Fufidio, Jr. issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Friday, against the City of Mount Vernon, Mayor Richard W. Thomas, and City Comptroller Deborah Reynolds, from doing further work at Memorial Field and additional demolition at the Mount Vernon Tennis Center, halting all activity at the Memorial Field site indefinitely. The parties are expected to return to court on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 for a hearing to determine whether to make the TRO permanent.
The motion, brought by the City Council of Mount Vernon, argued that the Thomas administration has consistently failed to followed legal procedures, has squandered taxpayer resources, and has destroyed City assets in violation of the City Charter – all in connection with the Memorial Field project.
Specifically, the council cites the mayor’s decision to hire Capital Industries to demolish the grandstands, something they said the mayor did without the council’s knowledge or by following accepted procurement practices.
“The City Council has not authorized the Memorial Field renovation to proceed in any fashion,” the papers said. “Thomas has failed to provide evidence that any ’emergency’ exists on the Memorial Field site, despite numerous requests to produce engineering reports to report such a contention.”
The June 1st incident at the Mount Vernon Tennis Center, which is next to the historic field, and where contractors took down the tennis bubble over the courts in the middle of the night, and members of the Mount Vernon Police Department were present to prevent the owners of Kela Tennis from entering while the destruction of their property was taking place. The destruction of the tennis bubble prompted the council to hold an emergency meeting during which they voted unanimously to turn the over a decade long-stalled renovation of Memorial Field over to Westchester County for completion.
“It is time for Memorial Field to be restored and to be enjoyed by the people of Mount Vernon again,” County Executive George Latimer shares with Black Westchester. “The County Legislators that represent the City are the ones that initially asked for the County to step in. I am pleased that the Mount Vernon City Council passed a resolution to turn over the renovation of the field to the County. We are perfectly prepared to go in and get the work done. Memorial Field is an iconic field with a rich history, and we intend to get the job done and give it back to the people of Mount Vernon.”
On Friday, June 1, 2018, the City Council voted unanimously (4-0, Councilwoman Delia Farquharson was not present) to transfer control of the renovation to Westchester County. Nevertheless, the Thomas Administration has continued to direct what the council and Kela Tennis owners allege are unlawful and unauthorized activities and expend City resources at the site, including the controversial removal of the tennis bubble at the Kela Tennis Center.
“It’s just sad, really. The citizens of Mount Vernon deserve better leadership than this. The Council had no choice but to seek a TRO against the Mayor to stop him from blatantly violating the law,” said Councilman Andre Wallace tells Black Westchester. “Memorial Field will be renovated, and it will be something we’re all proud of. But, it won’t be done by this administration. The process is already underway. Mayor Thomas is going to have to find another way to distract people from his criminal case.”
“This ruling just reinforces the principle that no one is above the law,” said Councilman Marcus A. Griffith in a statement. “That’s a lesson this administration seems to regularly ignore. It’s unfortunate that things had to get to this point, but the Council has a responsibility to the citizens of Mount Vernon to ensure their hard-earned tax dollars are not wasted.”
City Comptroller Debra Reynolds was also named in the petition. The council maintains she was “acting in concert” with Mayor Thomas and has authorized use of city funds for the demolition of the grandstands and removal of the tennis bubble. But Comptroller Reynolds who has been opposed to many of Mayor Thomas actions – going back to when the two served together on the City Council – has consistently complained about procedures not being followed by Mount Vernon’s youngest mayor.
On Thursday, she told the Journal News, she is still trying to get to the bottom of developments at the field as neither the council nor the mayor were providing her with any information. She said she has not approved any payments to contractors for either job.
“I’m the comptroller and this has to do with money so I need that information,” she told Lohud
Councilman Wallace shares with Black Westchester in closing;
“No one wants Memorial Field up and running more than the Council. We’re not asking for a major delay, just a pause to protect taxpayers money and to allow us to continue the conversation with the county to restore Memorial Field. The council had to take action after the mayor had broken into Memorial Field under the shadowy darkness of night with a group or terroristic insurgents with no other intention but to damage city property and create a major liability on the taxpayers, costing millions of dollars.”
The City Council was represented by Henry C. Chan, Esq. of Wilson & Chan, LLP.
Below is a copy of the original Memorial Field Inter Municipal Agreement for your reading.